Those Three Big Words...
"I am deploying". Those three big words hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't believe what I was hearing and panic set in. Panic for the unknown. Panic for Eugene's safety. Panic for the fact that we were literally packing a truck to move to a new place. A place where we knew no one.
"When?" was all I could think of to ask next. He said, "July". "How long will you be gone"? "Not sure". Again, more panic. Panic because it was the beginning of June and we had 6 more weeks to spend together before my fiance left for a war zone. I felt like I couldn't even process the thoughts that were flying through my mind at lightning speed. I had so many questions. Should I still move to New York? Am I going to make friends? How will I keep in contact with Eugene? Will he be safe? When will he be home? How will we make it though this? When will our wedding be?
After the panic calmed down a little bit, the sadness set in. Sadness for the way our new life was starting. In the back of my mind, I always knew that deployment was going to be a possibility, especially in the years following the tragic events of 911. But I didn't expect it to be so soon, not WEEKS after moving. Many years later, I think I have gained the wisdom to deal with these types of situations. At the time though, I was 23, and this "situation" felt like the whole world was crashing down. But maybe it's BECAUSE of these situations that I have found the tools to deal with the unpredictability of life.
After we sat in the moving truck, talking about our next steps, I decided to make one of the biggest decisions of my life and move to New York. Moving wasn't a big deal for Eugene. To him, this was just another stepping stone in his career path. He had been through basic training in Oklahoma, multiple Army bases for training and years before I knew him, he spent two years in Korea. But me? I was a native "Pittsburgher". I lived in the same house my entire life. And my parents still live there to this day. There is something serene and comfortable about a childhood home. Sure, I lived on campus at college for 4 years but I was still able to see my family and friends whenever I wanted. But now, to be moving seven hours away and not know when or if I would be able to come back when I wanted to? It was a lot to think about. After much prayer and weighing the pros and cons, I realized I needed to be there for Eugene and to support him. I needed to do this for him and for myself. Looking back, it was the steps I needed to take to truly enter adulthood with my head held high. The next morning, we hugged our families and set off for Ft. Drum, NY.
We stayed at a hotel for a few days until we got settled into our new apartment. We were going to live on the top level of a small house. We didn't have a lot of money but it fit our budget and was close to the base. It was nothing fancy but it soon became our first home. It was pretty exciting to think that we were going to have an apartment of our VERY own! During inprocessing, Eugene had met a few friends who graciously helped us to move in. A funny memory is having to bring the couches through the 2nd story landing window. The stairs to our apartment were covered because of the harsh winters so we had to tie the furniture up and rig a pulley system just to get some of the bigger pieces in. It was a tiny, two bedroom apartment that needed some TLC and some renovating. We made the best of it though, we decorated and added our personal touches. We shopped for the basics to stock our new little home with the things we needed to cook, clean and entertain ourselves. We learned our way around the town (Google Maps would have been SUPER helpful back then!!) and around Ft. Drum. For those that know me well, I am and always will be directionally challenged!!
As Eugene got settled into his first job as a new officer and I got settled into my office job at a company that provided home help to people, we both began to find our new routine. The timing of the deployment and the countdown of how many days we had left loomed over our heads more times a day than I could count. Not long after he processed in to Ft. Drum that it was time to start the deployment processing and training. The weeks flew by and we were becoming accustomed to military life. Unfortunately, military life isn't as easy to navigate when the couple isn't married. The non-military person cannot go onto the base without a military ID, no deployment information is given to anyone who is not a spouse, and no benefits are given. The question arouse: should we get married before the deployment at the Justice of the Peace? We obviously had to put our wedding on hold because of the deployment. Was it worth getting married outside the church, against our Christian beliefs? We had a BIG decision to make....and not a lot of time to decide....
*Photo credit below to Jessica Dieckhaus